Old McMurdo pictures

"First you fall in love with Antarctica, and then it breaks your heart."   — Kim Stanley Robinson, first line of his book Antarctica.
On this page:


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Andy McMinn

McMurdo and operation Deep Freeze in 1956

The following pictures were official Navy photos taken during Operation Deepfreeze 1960-61. At that time they were free for the taking if anybody wanted them. They were scanned and sent to me by Andy McMinn (left). I've resized and modified them a little to make a more homogeneous collection.

Comments on the pictures are from Andy and Rich Wohltman (Deep Freeze 64/65). If you want to contribute some comment, feel free since I wasn't even born at the time...


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USS Arneb (AKA-56). The picture was taken a day or two after she was holed. The crew repaired the hole after they tied the ship into the ice shelf, then shifted most of the cargo to create the list to bring the hole above water.

Left: USS Arneb (AKA-56). The picture was taken a day or two after she was holed. The crew repaired the hole after they tied the ship into the ice shelf, then shifted most of the cargo to create the list to bring the hole above water.


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USS Arneb (AKA-56) bringing in supplies in summer (lots of cold beer). With Mt. Erebus in the background, the only active Antarctic volcano.

Right: USS Arneb (AKA-56) bringing in supplies in summer (lots of cold beer). With Mt. Erebus in the background, the only active Antarctic volcano.

Wes Scanlon, Chief Engineer on the USS Arneb — AKA-56 sent me the following additional information in 2001:

The Arneb incurred this damage during Operation Deepfreeze 2 in the 1955-1956 expedition. She was caught between fast moving ice and the shelf ice and incurred several tears in her hull, despite efforts by what was then the icebreaker, USS Glacier to free her immediately, which they were eventually able to do.

Not only did she incur the tears in her hull, but lost a blade and one-half on her screw and severe bending of her shaft, from the crushing ice mass, eventually necessitating dry-docking and repairs in a Sydney, Australia (Cockatoo) shipyard, following a rather lengthy voyage from Antarctica to Sydney as a speed of 3 knots per hour, and the shipping of a new propeller from CONUS.

The actual temporary hull repairs were made by the Damage Control Division of Arneb and a major support effort from the members of Underwater Demolition Team - #21, who were embarked on Arneb at the time.

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McMurdo Sound with Mt. Erebus in the background. I have spent only two days in McMurdo in 1997 and have taken only a couple pictures.

Left: McMurdo Sound with Mt. Erebus in the background. I have spent only two days in McMurdo in 1997 and have taken only a couple pictures.


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Hut Point at McMurdo Sound.

Right: Hut Point at McMurdo Sound.



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McMinn and Freddie Soo, another sailor, harnessing the dogs.

Left: McMinn and Freddie Soo, another sailor, harnessing the dogs.

Nowadays dogs are forbidden by the Antarctic treaty. Did you see the movie Antarctica about those dogs forgotten during the evacuation of a Japanese station ? They survived the winter and the movie makes it look very romantic. Guess what they ate ? Emperor penguins of course, since there aren't any other animals in winter. Well, there are also baby seals in spring...


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McMinn and Freddie Soo going out to meet the plane on the ice to pick up mail in summer. In the 60's the dogs where usually just running loose about the camp. Some people kept them as pets while the people at Scott Base still worked theirs. To get food they would shoot seals, let them freeze, then chop them up and feed the dogs the frozen seal !

Right: McMinn and Freddie Soo going out to meet the plane on the ice to pick up mail in summer. In the 60's the dogs where usually just running loose about the camp. Some people kept them as pets while the people at Scott Base still worked theirs. To get food they would shoot seals, let them freeze, then chop them up and feed the dogs the frozen seal !


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McMinn and CDR Ahern (Executive Officer for Op DF 60-61) in front of the Admin Hut.

Left: McMinn and CDR Ahern (Executive Officer for Op DF 60-61) in front of the Admin Hut.


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McMurdo Sound (U.S. Navy Station). Middle of Winter in the base camp. Parked in the street is an amphibious army version of the Weasel.

Right: McMurdo Sound (U.S. Navy Station). Middle of Winter in the base camp. Parked in the street is an amphibious army version of the Weasel.


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'Weasel' and supply plane. Those weasels were build around 1935 for the US Army and were used at the French station of Dumont d'Urville until 1993 ! I saw the last ones being retired and sent to museums. They where dependable as hell with their 6 cyl Studabaker Engines.

Left: 'Weasel' and supply plane. Those weasels were build around 1935 for the US Army and were used at the French station of Dumont d'Urville until 1993 ! I saw the last ones being retired and sent to museums. They where dependable as hell with their 6 cyl Studabaker Engines.


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Ice Cave — you stay away from them as you never know how safe the ice is or how deep the cave.

Right: Ice Cave — you stay away from them as you never know how safe the ice is or how deep the cave.


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Seal (the animal). Curious little critters.

Left: Seal (the animal). Curious little critters.


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Seal (the U.S. Navy team diver).

Right: Seal (the U.S. Navy team diver).

The best read I've had about McMurdo is from the site Big Dead Place. Very insightful and very funny, particularly if you've been to Antarctica or have fought American administrations before.




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General View of McMurdo, with the historical Scott's hut in foreground.

1977 pictures of McMurdo

All the images below are © Thierry Cappelle 1977, used with permission.

Left: General View of McMurdo, with the historical Scott's hut in foreground.


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Vehicles ready for use.

Right: Vehicles ready for use.


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Mt Erebus, the only active volcano of Antarctica.

Left: Mt Erebus, the only active volcano of Antarctica.


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Last view of the McMurdo C130 landing strip before the return to civilization.

Right: Last view of the McMurdo C130 landing strip before the return to civilization.


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Glacier on the sea ice near McMurdo. This glacier coming down Mt Erebus at about 160m per year extends to about 12km on the sea ice. In summer the sea ice breaks away, taking pieces of the glacier with it and forming the side waves clearly visible on the image.

Left: Glacier on the sea ice near McMurdo. This glacier coming down Mt Erebus at about 160m per year extends to about 12km on the sea ice. In summer the sea ice breaks away, taking pieces of the glacier with it and forming the side waves clearly visible on the image.

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